Exclusive: Luton Borough Council puts brakes on Hatters’ plans to move to Power Court

The Hatters hope to move into the new ground in 2020
The Hatters hope to move into the new ground in 2020

Luton Town FC’s plans to relocate to Power Court have hit a stumbling block, as Luton Borough Council has not agreed to make changes to its draft Local Plan.

In December Hatters chief executive Gary Sweet unveiled grand plans to build a new stadium in the town centre – a move that would be funded by the club’s development of land by M1 junction 10a.

An overview of the large scale development planned at M1 J10a

An overview of the large scale development planned at M1 J10a

On that site LTFC plans to build 500,000 sq feet of office space, as well as a hotel, retail and leisure facilities.

In a bid to pave the way for planning consent Mr Sweet asked Luton Borough Council to adapt its Local Plan to reclassify both the Power Court and J10a sites.

Documents uncovered by the Luton News reveal that LBC has not supported that request, as plans for J10a “bring into question the strategy in the Plan to focus new retail growth on the town centre in accordance with national policy.”

Mr Sweet “has not provided the necessary justification” to support his proposals, the council has said.

Power Court, Luton

Power Court, Luton

LBC’s full response to the Hatters’ representation reads: “While the club’s proposal for a town centre site certainly has merit it is understood this is dependent on, and tied to, the transfer of large-scale new retail investment from Luton town centre to an out-of-town location.

“This approach involving the retail floorspace is not consistent with either national or local planning policy, nor has it been subject to testing of both its qualitative and quantitative impact.

“In such circumstances it cannot be supported.”

The response adds: “It is noted that a number of other football stadia have been successfully relocated to out-of-town sites.

“Acceding to this objection would also appear to undermine the town centre focus of the plan.”

Though Luton Town FC are still free to submit planning applications on both sites, LBC’s decision casts doubt on whether permission on the club’s current plans would be granted.

LTFC’s proposals for M1 J10a are integral to its move from Kenilworth Road to Power Court, as profits from the commercial development would bankroll the relocation.

Speaking to the Luton News in October, Mr Sweet said that the club’s plans for J10a would improve the town’s image.

He added: “Most people who know anything about Luton have said that it is just what the town needs – a fresh face and a change of perception to the 200,000 vehicles which pass it each day.

“The principle of the exhibition was to seek partnerships for offices, potential tenants and longer term funding to help build and keep it going.

“The club itself does not have the capital to build everything so it is about spreading the risk of construction across other joint venure partners.”